Episode 37: Michael Wagner of Steel Toe Brewing, Kara Doucette of Yelp MSP


This week I spoke to Steel Toe brewer Michael Wagner. He’s originally from Pittsburgh, went to college at West Virginia. We talked some sports – he’s a Steelers guy, I’m a Dolphins guy. We didn’t agree on some sports things, but we agree on one thing! (Intro)

Steel Toe is realizing its big dream of staying small. Michael told me how Steel Toe owner Jason Schoneman planned out his distribution model when the business got started, and built a small but extremely versatile team at the brewery. We put a spotlight on Steel Toe’s Size 4 session IPA, and he told me what his canning line is capable of.

I spoke with Kara Doucette, the community manager for Yelp MSP (29:19). She’s a Boston native, told me how she wound up here, how Yelp got her around in her first days in the Twin Cities. She told me how she handles the negative perception Yelp gets sometimes. She said Yelp went over 100 million reviews this year, and added that only 20 percent of those reviews are two stars are below … and I told the story of why the only review I have on Yelp is a one-star review for a wing joint in Superior, Wisconsin.

She told me what surprises await the Twin Cities later this month, and how she works with businesses across the area to put reviews – good and bad – to constructive use.



Michael Wagner, Steel Toe Brewing
Michael Wagner hails from Pittsburgh and graduated from college at West Virginia University. He came to the Twin Cities while still working for Pittsburgh Plate Glass. He began brewing with a friend back home, and got into the business professional once he arrived in the Twin Cities. He spent a few years at the Four Firkins liquor store before being hired at Steel Toe.

Steel Toe Brewing opened for business in August 2011; and, while many breweries aim for the stars, own Jason Schoneman drew a figurative line in the sand regarding how large he wanted his business to become. Wagner mentioned the team only consists of six or seven full-time employees, and they do it all – during our interview, one gentleman brought back supplies from the taproom, worked in the brewing area, went back out to the front and assisted customers. Steel Toe’s Wee Heavy won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014, and its Size 4 Session IPA (which we featured on this program) won silver in the hotly-contested Session IPA category in 2015.

Kara Doucette, Yelp MSP
At age 22, Kara Doucette loaded up her Toyota Corolla and shipped off away from Boston. After spending some time in Chicago, she landed in the Twin Cities and used Yelp to help her find her way around. She found a job posting on the website for MSP’s community manager, and the rest is history.

Yelp Community Manager: it might not sound too intense, but the English language is sneaky that way. Doucette handles Yelp’s events, social media, promotions, newsletters, and business relationships … and she does it with a team of one newly-hired intern. Perhaps you’ve heard of Yelp? It’s a little review site, that recently had its 100,000,000th review posted to it.

Doucette has over 400 reviews under her own ELITE profile badges, from a $5 tan at a tanning salon to restaurants all over the country. Did you know shopping is the largest category for reviews, even above food? I didn’t know that! She laid out your path to eliteness on Yelp, and defined a high-quality review on the website. She also revealed how you’ll be able to get a pizza with tacos on it later this month – and how you can have it for half-price!



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